By Emily Safron
When the world stopped last March, people worldwide struggled to protect themselves from a deadly pandemic while storefronts, events and restaurants crumbled. As an avid reality television watcher, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future of my favorite franchises would look like. Would the cast of “The Real Housewives of New York” ever take a cast trip to the Berkshires again? How would the cast of “The Bachelor” make it to their destination dates? And what about shows like “Bachelor in Paradise” and “Love Island?”
While reality shows took a small hiatus on filming, many began to announce that they would resume filming with several precautions and quarantine restrictions in place. Keep reading to see how some of your favorite shows have been able to stay in production.
Real Housewives Franchise
In March of 2020, Bravo was working on editing the latest seasons of both “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (RHOBH) and “Real Housewives of New York” (RHONY) with only “Real Housewives of Atlanta” (RHOA) currently on air. Confined to their homes, eager “Housewives” fans begged for more episodes to air.
“The issue is there’s only a certain amount of episodes totally color-corrected and locked right now, for both of those shows,” shared Andy Cohen, Bravo programming executive, to The Wrap. “If we released all those now, we would wind up screwing ourselves in the end, so that’s the issue.”
As the pandemic progressed, Bravo was able to get a better hold on how they would be able to proceed with their hit franchise. While most seasons had been already filmed, one question remained stagnant: how would producers and cast members be able to film their coveted reunion specials following the end of the season?
With RHOA underway, it was pertinent that producers figure out how to record the reunion.
“As Zoom-ing and videoconferencing became a part of how everybody was interacting with each other, it became really clear: This is what we needed to do,” said Shari Levine, executive vice president of Bravo Media, to LA Times. “How are people going to engage with each other because they’re not all sitting in a room, they’re all sitting at home in front of their computers. The head of that production company said it was like landing a person on the moon and then having to get them back again.”
RHOA was able to successfully pull off a Zoom reunion, with glam squads in tow. In August, the producers reconvened to see if an in-person show would be feasible. With all precautions in place, the reunion was able to be shot at the Oheka Castle in Huntington on Long Island, New York.
“Everybody has to get tested, there’s very few crew, there’s very few people allowed, we are all six feet apart,” Cohen said.
Prior to COVID-19, “The Bachelor” franchise was known for lavish group dates and excursions, featuring a large cast of over 20 contestants. After the pandemic hit, it was clear that if the show was to continue with another season, they would have to rethink everything.
The first season to film post-COVID-19 initially featured previous contestant Clare Crawley. After making a selection within weeks of filming, producers quickly moved to Tayshia Adams. Filmed solely at La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, California, the season required a lot of quick thinking to ensure its success.
“Our goal was ‘Let’s just get and start rolling and create this bubble.’ It was 100-percent successful. And now we have a blueprint moving forward,” Chris Harrison, host of the franchise, said to Cheat Sheet. “We don’t want it to feel like COVID-‘Bachelorette.’ We wanted it to be the same intimate, fun show that we always do.”
When the news was confirmed to the cast, it was definitely disappointing. One of the most anticipated episodes of the season, Hometowns, in which the Bachelorette flew to meet the final three contestant’s families, would have to take place at the resort.
“At first I was a little sad about it. But to be honest with you, I thrive in the heat, and Palm Springs is one of my favorite places,” Tayshia Adams, the Bachelorette, confessed to Cheat Sheet. “Sometimes it’s easier to fall in love in Italy, traveling and being on a yacht and whatnot. But this time, it was just us. And I thought it was great.”
Preceding Adams’s season, Matt James was announced as the newest Bachelor. With one COVID-19 season under the producers’ belt, there was the ability for more leeway, which is why James’s season took place at Nemacolin Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania.
“After going through it I think we can all just go to ‘The Bachelor’ and realize if we all do the same thing, if we implement the same safety standards we’re going to be good to go,” Harrison said to Parade.
With precautions in place, extra women were brought to the resort in the chance that anyone were to test positive, despite all members of production being required to quarantine prior to filming. This was something learned while filming the previous “Bachelorette” season, as members of Crawley’s cast ended up testing positive and had to be sent home.
With the switch in location, James and his contestants were able to film in more locations, both on the property and in the area.
“There’s gonna be a lot more offered to us as far as being outdoors. It’s not gonna be 155 degrees, which helps. This place is gonna give us a lot more outdoors, a lot more activities,” Harrison explained to TV Insider.
As these shows continue to film as time progresses, it is great to see the progress made from both producers and cast members. As a reality television junkie myself, I’m confident that we will soon be able to get back to some kind of normalcy with production. As audiences continue to binge-watch their favorite reality television celebrities, it makes it even more worthwhile knowing that they’re taking the necessary precautions to return to our screens safely.